Photo of Bjorn R. Olsen,  MD, PhD

Bjorn R. Olsen, MD, PhD

Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School
Phone: (617) 432-1874
Fax: (617) 432-0638

Bjorn R. Olsen, MD, PhD

Harvard Medical School


  • Harvard-Forsyth Professor of Oral Biology, Harvard-Forsyth Oral Biology, Harvard School Of Dental Medicine
  • Hersey Professor of Cell Biology, Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
  • Professor, Developmental Biology, Harvard School Of Dental Medicine
  • Dean of Research, Harvard Dental School, Harvard School Of Dental Medicine
  • Dean for Research, Developmental biology, Harvard School Of Dental Medicine

Research Abstract

This laboratory studies tissue and organ morphogenesis. Work is currently directed at three project areas.

In the first project we study skeletal morphogenesis and growth. We are interested in genes that control differentiation of mesenchymal cells to chondrocytes and osteoblasts, the control of spatial patterns of mesenchymal condensations during skeletal development and tooth formation, the molecular mechanisms controlling the formation of ossification centers, and the regulation of proliferation and differentiation of chondrocytes in growth plates. In addition to using transgenic mice in studies of specific genes, we make extensive use of genetic approaches in mice and humans. This includes mapping of inherited disorders, gene identification and mutation detection.

In the second project we investigate the molecular basis for vascular morphogenesis, using a combination of human genetics and studies of cells in culture. In addition, we use gene targeting to generate mice with inactivated alleles for collagens that are expressed in vascular walls.

In the third project we are studying genetic risk factors for osteoarthritis in humans. One approach involves identification of mutations responsible for early-onset osteoarthritis as part of inherited osteochondrodysplasias; in other studies we are screening a population of patients with osteoarthritis for mutations in candidate genes.


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  • Hu K, Olsen BR, Besschetnova TY. Cell autonomous ANTXR1-mediated regulation of extracellular matrix components in primary fibroblasts. Matrix Biol 2016. PubMed
  • Hu K, Olsen BR. Vascular endothelial growth factor control mechanisms in skeletal growth and repair. Dev Dyn 2016. PubMed
  • Olsen BR, Berendsen AD, Besschetnova TY, Duan X, Hu K. Regulatory mechanisms of skeletal and connective tissue development and homeostasis - lessons from studies of human disorders. Int J Exp Pathol 2016. PubMed
  • Hu K, Olsen BR. Osteoblast-derived VEGF regulates osteoblast differentiation and bone formation during bone repair. J Clin Invest 2016; 126:509-26. PubMed
  • Agarwal S, Loder S, Brownley C, Cholok D, Mangiavini L, Li J, Breuler C, Sung HH, Li S, Ranganathan K, Peterson J, Tompkins R, Herndon D, Xiao W, Jumlongras D, Olsen BR, Davis TA, Mishina Y, Schipani E, Levi B. Inhibition of Hif1α prevents both trauma-induced and genetic heterotopic ossification. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016; 113:E338-47. PubMed
  • Huang W, Li Q, Amiry-Moghaddam M, Hokama M, Sardi SH, Nagao M, Warman ML, Olsen BR. Critical Endothelial Regulation by LRP5 during Retinal Vascular Development. PLoS ONE 2016; 11:e0152833. PubMed
  • Hara ES, Ono M, Pham HT, Sonoyama W, Kubota S, Takigawa M, Matsumoto T, Young MF, Olsen BR, Kuboki T. Fluocinolone Acetonide Is a Potent Synergistic Factor of TGF-β3-Associated Chondrogenesis of Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Articular Surface Regeneration. J Bone Miner Res 2015. PubMed
  • Besschetnova TY, Ichimura T, Katebi N, St Croix B, Bonventre JV, Olsen BR. Regulatory mechanisms of anthrax toxin receptor 1-dependent vascular and connective tissue homeostasis. Matrix Biol 2015. PubMed
  • Liu Y, Olsen BR. Distinct VEGF functions during bone development and homeostasis. Arch. Immunol. Ther. Exp. (Warsz.) 2014. PubMed
  • Shalish M, Will LA, Fukai N, Hou B, Olsen BR. Role of polycystin-1 in bone remodeling: orthodontic tooth movement study in mutant mice. Angle Orthod 2014. PubMed
  • Dubail J, Aramaki-Hattori N, Bader HL, Nelson CM, Katebi N, Matuska B, Olsen BR, Apte SS. A new Adamts9 conditional mouse allele identifies its non-redundant role in interdigital web regression. Genesis 2014. PubMed
  • Dellinger MT, Garg N, Olsen BR. Viewpoints on vessels and vanishing bones in Gorham-Stout disease. Bone 2014; 63C:47-52. PubMed
  • Berendsen AD, Olsen BR. How vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF) regulates differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 2014; 62:103-8. PubMed
  • Liu Y, Berendsen AD, Jia S, Lotinun S, Baron R, Ferrara N, Olsen BR. Intracellular VEGF regulates the balance between osteoblast and adipocyte differentiation. J Clin Invest 2012; 122:3101-13. PubMed
  • Medici D, Olsen BR. Rapamycin inhibits proliferation of hemangioma endothelial cells by reducing HIF-1-dependent expression of VEGF. PLoS ONE 2012; 7:e42913. PubMed
  • Medici D, Olsen BR. Transforming blood vessels into bone. Cell Cycle 2011; 10:362-3. PubMed
  • Medici D, Shore EM, Lounev VY, Kaplan FS, Kalluri R, Olsen BR. Conversion of vascular endothelial cells into multipotent stem-like cells. Nat Med 2010; 16:1400-6. PubMed
  • Jinnin M, Ishihara T, Boye E, Olsen BR. Recent progress in studies of infantile hemangioma. J Dermatol 2010; 37:939-55. PubMed
  • Clarkin C, Olsen BR. On bone-forming cells and blood vessels in bone development. Cell Metab 2010; 12:314-6. PubMed
  • Jeng L, Olsen BR, Spector M. Engineering endostatin-producing cartilaginous constructs for cartilage repair using nonviral transfection of chondrocyte-seeded and mesenchymal-stem-cell-seeded collagen scaffolds. Tissue Eng Part A 2010; 16:3011-21. PubMed
  • Faye C, Inforzato A, Bignon M, Hartmann DJ, Muller L, Ballut L, Olsen BR, Day AJ, Ricard-Blum S. Transglutaminase-2: a new endostatin partner in the extracellular matrix of endothelial cells. Biochem J 2010; 427:467-75. PubMed
  • Jinnin M, Ishihara T, Boye E, Olsen BR. Recent progress in studies of infantile hemangioma. J Dermatol 2010; 37:283-98. PubMed
  • Besschetnova TY, Kolpakova-Hart E, Guan Y, Zhou J, Olsen BR, Shah JV. Identification of signaling pathways regulating primary cilium length and flow-mediated adaptation. Curr Biol 2010; 20:182-7. PubMed
  • Nicolae C, Olsen BR. Unexpected matrix diseases and novel therapeutic strategies. Cell Tissue Res 2010; 339:155-65. PubMed
  • Gebauer JM, Keene DR, Olsen BR, Sorokin LM, Paulsson M, Wagener R. Mouse AMACO, a kidney and skin basement membrane associated molecule that mediates RGD-dependent cell attachment. Matrix Biol 2009; 28:456-62. PubMed
  • Faye C, Moreau C, Chautard E, Jetne R, Fukai N, Ruggiero F, Humphries MJ, Olsen BR, Ricard-Blum S. Molecular interplay between endostatin, integrins, and heparan sulfate. J Biol Chem 2009; 284:22029-40. PubMed
  • Faye C, Chautard E, Olsen BR, Ricard-Blum S. The first draft of the endostatin interaction network. J Biol Chem 2009; 284:22041-7. PubMed
  • Aliprantis AO,Ueki Y,Sulyanto R,Park A,Sigrist KS,Sharma SM,Ostrowski MC,Olsen BR,Glimcher LH. NFATc1 in mice represses osteoprotegerin during osteoclastogenesis and dissociates systemic osteopenia from inflammation in cherubism. J Clin Invest 2008; 118:3775-89. PubMed
  • Haemig PD, Hernandez J, Waldenstrom J, Bonnedahl J, Olsen B. Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) Test Negative for Salmonella. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2008; 8:451-3. PubMed
  • Saharinen P, Eklund L, Miettinen J, Wirkkala R, Anisimov A, Winderlich M, Nottebaum A, Vestweber D, Deutsch U, Koh GY, Olsen BR, Alitalo K. Angiopoietins assemble distinct Tie2 signalling complexes in endothelial cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts. Nat Cell Biol 2008; 10:527-37. PubMed
  • Thegerstrom J, Romanus V, Friman V, Brudin L, Haemig PD, Olsen B. Mycobacterium avium lymphadenopathy among children, Sweden. Emerg Infect Dis 2008; 14:661-3. PubMed
  • Glotzer DJ, Zelzer E, Olsen BR. Impaired skin and hair follicle development in Runx2 deficient mice. Dev Biol 2008; 315:459-73. PubMed
  • Sjolund M, Bonnedahl J, Hernandez J, Bengtsson S, Cederbrant G, Pinhassi J, Kahlmeter G, Olsen B. Dissemination of multidrug-resistant bacteria into the Arctic. Emerg Infect Dis 2008; 14:70-2. PubMed
  • Greene AK, Kim S, Rogers GF, Fishman SJ, Olsen BR, Mulliken JB. Risk of vascular anomalies with Down syndrome. Pediatrics 2008; 121:e135-40. PubMed
  • Marneros AG, She H, Zambarakji H, Hashizume H, Connolly EJ, Kim I, Gragoudas ES, Miller JW, Olsen BR. Endogenous endostatin inhibits choroidal neovascularization. FASEB J 2007; 21:3809-18. PubMed
  • Axelsson-Olsson D, Ellstrom P, Waldenstrom J, Haemig PD, Brudin L, Olsen B. Acanthamoeba-Campylobacter coculture as a novel method for enrichment of Campylobacter species. Appl Environ Microbiol 2007; 73:6864-9. PubMed
  • Li Y, Xu L, Olsen BR. Lessons from genetic forms of osteoarthritis for the pathogenesis of the disease. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2007; 15:1101-5. PubMed
  • Kolpakova-Hart E, Jinnin M, Hou B, Fukai N, Olsen BR. Kinesin-2 controls development and patterning of the vertebrate skeleton by Hedgehog- and Gli3-dependent mechanisms. Dev Biol 2007; 309:273-84. PubMed
  • Karlsson M, Wallensten A, Lundkvist A, Olsen B, Brytting M. A real-time PCR assay for the monitoring of influenza A virus in wild birds. J Virol Methods 2007; 144:27-31. PubMed
  • Larsson C, Comstedt P, Olsen B, Bergstrom S. First record of Lyme disease Borrelia in the Arctic. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2007; 7:453-6. PubMed
  • Legare F, Pfeffer C, Olsen BR. The role of backscattering in SHG tissue imaging. Biophys J 2007; 93:1312-20. PubMed
  • Waldenstrom J, Lundkvist A, Falk KI, Garpmo U, Bergstrom S, Lindegren G, Sjostedt A, Mejlon H, Fransson T, Haemig PD, Olsen B. Migrating birds and tickborne encephalitis virus. Emerg Infect Dis 2007; 13:1215-8. PubMed
  • Xu L, Peng H, Glasson S, Lee PL, Hu K, Ijiri K, Olsen BR, Goldring MB, Li Y. Increased expression of the collagen receptor discoidin domain receptor 2 in articular cartilage as a key event in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2007; 56:2663-73. PubMed
  • Wallensten A, Waldenstrom J, Olsen B. [Avian influenza, the hen, the man and the presumed death] Lakartidningen 2007; 104:2240-3. PubMed
  • Lam NP, Li Y, Waldman AB, Brussiau J, Lee PL, Olsen BR, Xu L. Age-dependent increase of discoidin domain receptor 2 and matrix metalloproteinase 13 expression in temporomandibular joint cartilage of type IX and type XI collagen-deficient mice. Arch Oral Biol 2006; 52:579-84. PubMed
  • Hou B, Fukai N, Olsen BR. Mechanical force-induced midpalatal suture remodeling in mice. Bone 2007; 40:1483-93. PubMed
  • Ueki Y, Lin CY, Senoo M, Ebihara T, Agata N, Onji M, Saheki Y, Kawai T, Mukherjee PM, Reichenberger E, Olsen BR. Increased myeloid cell responses to M-CSF and RANKL cause bone loss and inflammation in SH3BP2 "cherubism" mice. Cell 2007; 128:71-83. PubMed
  • Fick J, Lindberg RH, Tysklind M, Haemig PD, Waldenstrom J, Wallensten A, Olsen B. Antiviral oseltamivir is not removed or degraded in normal sewage water treatment: implications for development of resistance by influenza A virus. PLoS ONE 2007; 2:e986. PubMed
  • Marneros AG, Fan J, Yokoyama Y, Gerber HP, Ferrara N, Crouch RK, Olsen BR. Vascular endothelial growth factor expression in the retinal pigment epithelium is essential for choriocapillaris development and visual function. Am J Pathol 2005; 167:1451-9. PubMed
  • Volloch V, Olsen BR. Why cellular stress suppresses adipogenesis in skeletal tissue, but is ineffective in adipose tissue: control of mesenchymal cell differentiation via integrin binding sites in extracellular matrices. Matrix Biol 2013; 32:365-71. PubMed